Reliance Industries chairman, Mukesh Ambani with wife Nita and son Akash at the company’s annual general meeting
Reliance Industries chairman, Mukesh Ambani with wife Nita and son Akash at the company’s annual general meeting

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Beginning Sept. 5, India’s competitive telecom market that has collected 1 billion users to date, will have a newcomer with deep pockets — India’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani, announced the imminent rollout Thursday of much-awaited 4G phone service Jio at the annual shareholders’ meeting of oil and gas giant Reliance Industries.

The announcement was made at Birla Matushri hall, one of the oldest auditoriums in Mumbai, and was attended by well over 1,000 people.

Jio represents the largest investment in Reliance’s history — more than $20 billion — and is set to disrupt the telecom market by offering free domestic voice calls and messaging, and data plans with monthly rates starting at just over $2 –“the lowest in the world “ as per Ambani. Adding further insult to injury to his opponents, Ambani said that Jio will offer only 4G services not “mostly 2G, sometimes 3G and once-in-a-while 4G.”

Jio’s handsets are currently priced at $45 onward.

Thanks to the aggressive price model, Jio is anticipated to pick up steam, analysts say. To further entice new customers, the Jio service bundle will be offered free until December. “This is an offer that’s hard to refuse. People are going to line up to get a free connection, ” says Dinesh Kanabar, CEO of Mumbai corporate advisory firm Dhruva.

Shares of rivals Bharti Airtel a company of billionaire Sunil Mittal, and Idea Cellular, part of billionaire Kumar Birla’s Aditya Birla Group, fell Thursday on fears of an inevitable price war hurting their profitability. Idea declined by more than 10%, while Bharti was down by 6.4%. Shares of Reliance Communications, controlled by Ambani’s younger sibling Anil Ambani, with whom Jio will also compete, too suffered close to a 9% fall.

Jio’s network covers 18,000 cities and towns and 200,000 villages. By March of next year, the company hopes to expand to 90% of the population. Ambani said he has set a target for the Jio team to reach 100 million connections as quickly as possible. Jio employs 60,000 people with the average age of 30. Among its youngest employees are Ambani’s 24 year-old, US-educated twins, Isha and Akash who were present at the meeting.

Reliance and its rivals have already been long engaged in a war or words, each side has accused the other of foul play.